Why the demise of the Middle East ‘peace process’ may be a good thing
Recognizing that a two-state solution is no longer in the cards opens the way for other paths that don’t depend on Western mediation. It puts to rest the fiction that a Palestinian state will emerge from even the best intentions of the West instead of from the political realities of the Middle East.
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The end of the peace process provides a rare moment of stark clarity as the veil drops, revealing the fiction underlying the two-state narrative. The truth is that a “state” was never on offer. Many in Israel were never comfortable with the concept of a Jewish majority state, since this would confer a parity of rights on the minority. The ideology of Zionism – a system of differential rights for Jews and non-Jews – has always been inherently in conflict with the idea of a Jewish majority. A two-state solution would have formalized a non-Zionist Israel as a “majority Jewish state,” as the counterpart to a Palestinian state.Skip to next paragraph
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The recognition that a two-state solution is no longer in the cards opens the way to visualizing other paths that don’t depend on the Western mediation.
Lessons from Africa
In some ways, the situation in the Middle East today reminds me of my experience 30 years ago in Africa. A moment of “clarity” then also brought crisis to another peace process – in South-West Africa/Namibia. It took another decade for Namibia finally to emerge as an independent state. What made the attempt at statehood there initially fail, and then subsequently succeed, holds lessons for the Middle East in the coming years.
Namibian independence efforts failed at first because the South African government, at that juncture, was sailing along, “jolly and light-hearted” in the security of its regional dominance. But then the political context changed radically.
In 1978, South Africa was standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” with America in a polarizing Cold War. It was the “enclave” of market economics in a Marxist region. How differently matters stood 10 years later as the Cold War was coming to an end. South Africa was no longer America’s “necessary” partner. Its legitimacy in the eyes of the world plummeted as the raison d’être for keeping Nelson Mandela in jail disappeared.
A new dynamic in the region – without US
In the Middle East today, another strict polarization which had branded everyone either pro-“peace” or against “peace” is melting fast. Israel’s growing belligerence on settlements and other issues has widened the gulf with the rest of the states in the region. It is matched by the growing power of Iran and the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, tilting the balance in the region towards a broad tent of “resistance politics.” Further, Turkey has taken on a new leadership role that stands up to Israel when necessary. And every passing day sees the Arab autocracies allied with the West growing more deeply moribund.